Thousands of Muslim pilgrims perform stoning of the Satan for the second day

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Thousands of Muslim pilgrims have been performing the stoning of the devil in Mina in Saudi Arabia for the second day, on Sunday.

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As part of the annual hajj pilgrims throw pebbles at three large pillars that mark the places where the devil tried to interrupt Ibrahim’s sacrifice.

Muslims believe the devil tried to talk Ibrahim out of submitting to God’s will. Pilgrims stone the devil to signify overcoming temptation.

The ritual is a notorious chokepoint for surging crowds. In 2015, thousands of pilgrims were crushed to death in a gruesome stampede. Saudi authorities never gave a final death toll.

In the years since, authorities have improved access with wider streets, electronic gates and a high-speed rail link.

Pilgrims like Saeed al-Banna, from Egypt, felt the pilgrimage this year was well organized.

“I feel safe and relaxed due to pilgrimage, the opposite of how I felt over the past years.”

Around a million Muslim pilgrims flocked this week to the holy city of Mecca, the largest pilgrimage since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the event.

Saudi Arabia maintained limits on this year’s hajj to curb the spread of the virus, with the attendance by 1 million vaccinated Muslims less than half of pre-pandemic quotas.

With so many people from so many places crammed together, public health is a major concern.

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry urged pilgrims to consider wearing masks to curb the spread of coronavirus, although the government lifted a mask mandate and other virus precautions last month.

With the hajj a major source of prestige and tourism for Saudi Arabia, the government is keen to do away with pandemic restrictions.

Still, the scenes were a significant step closer to normal. The famous crowds thronged the holy sites, abandoning masks and safety measures.

Saudi Health Minister Fahad al-Jalajel told Al-Arabiya that authorities had not recorded an “outbreak” of the virus at the hajj, without elaborating on individual cases. He said he expected authorities to expand quotas for pilgrims next year.

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